Joanne

expert

Expert post: How to help your child become more independent

It's amazing how much children change between the age of six and nine. Here's how you can help them grow in independence:

Expert post: How to help your child become more independent

 

Recently we looked at how you can help your child become more confident - you'll find those tips here. As your child becomes more confident, their capacity to do things for themselves increases too. And this is where we parents have to take a step back so that our children can build that confidence in themselves as capable, independent individuals.
 

How can I help my child become more independent?

As your child moves through seven, eight and nine, you’ll find that they’re naturally ready to do more things that they’ve never done before. Give them the space to do this, even if it scares or frustrates you.

Don't burn yourself into a frenzy by racing after them with forgotten lunch bags, homework and sports kit. If you keep remembering all that stuff, what onus is there on your child to remember for themselves?

We're now into the last few weeks of this school year. If you've been doing everything for your child so far, maybe this last bit of the term is the time to let them take a little more responsibility for themselves?

 

 But if I don't do that stuff, they'll just forget and it won't get done

That’s the whole point – forgetting, and dealing with the consequences, is an important life lesson. We have to let our children make mistakes and fail.

 

Deb wrote a great post here about life skills children should have by the age of ten. I thought it would be interesting to discuss the things we do and don’t allow our children to do. This isn't meant to be a prescriptive list - every child is develops at a different pace. 

By the age of nine or ten, would you trust your child to:
• Walk to or from school alone. If this isn’t practical, would you let them walk to a nearby friend’s house or the local shop? With lighter summer evenings, it's a good time to start.
• Use their own money to make a purchase in a shop. They might think twice about whether they really want that ice cream if they have to pay for it themselves.
• Go to the loo alone in a public place such as a cafe
• Use an iron
• Change their pants and socks every day
• Put dirty clothes in the laundry
• Make a cup of tea
• Get their homework in on time
• Make a simple meal like pasta or toast
• Spend a little time at home alone

I was practically biting my hand with fear the first time my ten year old daughter used the iron or made a cup of tea. If I’m honest, deep down I don’t want my precious baby near anything that might harm her. But we do our children no favours by wrapping them in cotton wool.
 
What do you think - would you let your child do stuff like this? What do you do to encourage your child’s independence?
 
Further Reading:
Letting Go As Children Grow by Deborah Jackson

Steps to Independence: Teaching Everyday Skills to Children With Special Needs by Bruce L Baker  
Joanne Mallon

8 Comments

  • Screen shot 2011-09-08 at 11

    mum

    RosieScribble

    08 July, 2010

    That's really interesting. I have to admit to using an iron for the first time when I went to university. I would have liked a little more independence. It is difficult to know what we should be allowing our children to do so this article is extremely helpful for me. My daughter is nearly seven so I'm going to get her doing more things around the house and take it from there. Thank you.

  • Joanne

    expert

    Joanne Mallon

    08 July, 2010

    Hi Rosie - My daughter charges me for doing the ironing now - 10p for a small item, 20p for a big one! I still stay in the room when she does it, but it has become one of those quiet moments when we connect. As girls move towards puberty I think those moments become more and more important.

  • Maggie

    mum

    Maggie Christie

    08 July, 2010

    I found this really interesting as I have a quite timid eight-year-old and a six-year-old who thinks nothing of making herself some toast. Like Rosie I found this article helpful in establishing what my children should be doing at this age. I also found the confidence tips very useful for my eldest, so thanks!

  • Joanne

    expert

    Joanne Mallon

    08 July, 2010

    Hi Maggie - I should make it clear that I didn't mean this to be a prescriptive list of things a child 'should' be doing. You know your own child and what they're ready for. But I did want to open up a discussion about what children might be able to do by the time they reach ten, and to encourage parents to let their child take a little more responsibility for themselves.

  • Liveotherwise
    jaxb

    08 July, 2010

    my 10 year old has been making me cups of tea for ages, sometimes she even uses hot water ;) (Anyone else had the joy of cold tea with too much milk?) She's just started popping to the local shops or walking to the library alone, which means she's also started carrying a mobile phone for my peace of mind. Which has opened up a whole other can of worms tbh!

  • Cathy cooper

    expert

    catherinecooper

    09 July, 2010

    I find it amazing that there are kids of nine or ten who don't change their pants or put their clothes in the laundry. Or go to the loo alone in a cafe. My five year old does all those things (not use an iron or make tea, admittedly...) but I wonder if I am quite hardcore about this. I've seen mums still running round picking up after their teenagers - I am determined that I'm not going to do that. I wonder if that's how you end up with these men who expect their wives to put their clothes out for them.

  • Small_blank

    admin

    Ready for Ten admin

    09 July, 2010

    Some very interesting points here. I am with Catherine on this one my five year old (and my three year old for that matter) have to put their clothes in the laundry bin when they get undressed ( I have to help the three year old to take off his t shirt but he does the rest). They also have to take their plates (plastic) to the kitchen when they are finished eating at the table. Much of this is because I want them to be independant from an early age, but mostly because with three children five and under, I need all the help I can get :-). They enjoy being responsible for these tasks and I make a really big deal about it when they do it so they want to keep at it. My five year old wants to help with cooking now so she's allowed to chop some veg (I stand behind her) and helps me stir the pots carefully on the cooker while I stand with her, and she really feels like she is contributing to the household by doing this.

    Joanne I love that your daughter charges you for ironing that is truly brilliant!! Not only is she learning a valuable life skill by ironing, but she is also learning to earn her money which is a massive lesson that will really help in later life. I'm going to be nicking that idea when mine are a little older :-)

    Leigh
    Ready for Ten team

  • Ellen

    mum

    Ellen Arnison

    11 July, 2010

    Joanne, love the notion of paying for ironing. I may adopt. When I was pregnant and very immobile my boys then 7 and 9 had to help. They emptied and filled dishwashers and washing machines etc. I just couldn't do things myself. It showed us all what they are capable of.

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